Between the 20th and the 24th of January, four churches have been burned down in Western Kenya. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spoke with Bishop Charles Nyakoi of the Assemblies of God-Otamba about the arson attacks.
What can you tell us about the attacks?
It is suspected that the attackers might have come around midnight when the culprits knew that people were asleep. Locals alleged that some of the perpetrators were youths who like watching late-night football, but we cannot substantiate those claims. However, the police arrested some suspects.
Were they armed?
It is not clear if they had guns, but you can easily say that they came with crude weapons considering the way they gained entry. They broke windows and got inside through very small openings. Some of our window panes were destroyed.
How much damage do you think you incurred?
In my estimation, we lost property worth 500,000 shillings ($5,000). The roofing of our church was not spared as all timber rafters caught fire. The damage is immense. There is smoke damage everywhere, and we really need a lot of resources to make this house of God a better place. We do not have chairs to sit on for Sunday services. Christians are now forced to sit on the floor, and people are forced to bring chairs from home.
Had you been threatened before?
Not at all. I was left wondering why they had to do this because burning a church is the same as invoking God’s wrath. Nor did my colleagues from the other affected churches received threats. This whole thing remains a mystery.
Do you have any sense of the grievances of the attackers?
No one has ever come to complain to us about any issue. Some people were saying that we may be having land disputes but that one does not hold any water because we have all the legal documents to show that we are the legal owners of the land where we built the church. If it were a land issue, then the case would have involved only one church and not the five that were torched. Does it mean that all five churches located in different places have land issues? That is not the case. We leave it in the hands of the police to uncover the reasons for the attack. Theories range from satanic worship to aggrieved village criminals.
You can read the entire interview here.